The Gift of Listening

By Catherine Downing and Elizabeth Downing
posted with permission

As the holiday season goes into full swing, we are aware of what comes with our celebrations: lots of activities, generous dessert tables and endless gatherings. It is, indeed, a time to be surrounded by family and friends. Most of us greet this time of the year with open arms and excitement; we look forward to spending extra time celebrating with those closest to us.

However, as we embrace this time of the year, there are those who see the holidays with a much different outlook. Your loved ones living with mental health conditions may view the holiday season as a gauntlet of triggers and with overall dread. For many, interactions with particular family members or having to be on point in large group settings can create feelings of anxiety and need for isolation. Continue reading

A Retreat of Faith and Rest

For many Well Community members, faith provides a place of refuge and strength in the midst of the chaos of mental illness. But, as is the case for most who struggle with serious mental health challenges, getting away to rest and cultivate their faith is a luxury that’s out of reach. The Well Community’s twice-annual overnight spiritual retreats enable them to escape the noise of the city and provide time to reflect and regroup. Continue reading

The Weight of Poverty

For many of the 43.8 million people in America who struggle with mental health difficulties each year, the challenges of life just pile up. Mental illnesses, along with the tragic overlay of stigma, can contribute to other issues that make everyday living a grueling existence. At The Well Community we regularly assist members in confronting addictions and addressing concerns such as medical conditions, homelessness and poverty, any of which, without help, multiplies the sense of confusion and hopelessness.

Amid the poverty and through the challenges, The Well Community offers a place where adults with severe mental health conditions can find support. “We provide a community of hope and healing to these individuals. We give them an opportunity to gain dignity and self-worth, and encourage them to not give up on a system that makes hope seem scarce,” says Executive Director Alice Zaccarello.

Without care from family and friends, or without support from groups like The Well, many with severe mental health issues experience the compounding effects of poverty. They know how poverty cuts a deep gorge into possibilities for recovery. Those who have fallen under the weight of poverty have done so under a complex social system that has limited success in addressing basic needs. Continue reading

Learning Together

Learning Together - Charles and Connie

Well Community Members Charles and Connie

Donna grew up going to church. It is the place she finds companionship when she is lonely and the place where she can be with friends on the weekends. But mostly Donna loves going to Sunday school because there she is reminded of God’s love and keeps learning about Jesus. However, finding a church where she feels comfortable has sometimes been a challenge. Because she deals with mental health difficulties, it has been hard to “fit in.” But at Cliff Temple Baptist Church she’s found just the right class, one specially tailored for members of The Well Community. Continue reading

With Flair: Honoring Ann Tabony

We are so thankful for our volunteers at The Well, and were happy recently to join The Well Auxiliary in honoring Ann Tabony, who has been teaching art classes to our members for a dozen years. Though not trained as an art therapist, Ann’s warm encouragement and patient coaching has not only given our members new outlets to express their thoughts and feelings, but has also uncovered hidden artistic talents in several members. Here’s a glimpse of the event and some older photos of Ann with her “students” and exhibits of their work.

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Best Three Hours

Volunteer James Barclay (right) with Well Member, Todd

“It is the best three hours of my week,” says James Barclay, who, after 34 years with the Dallas Police Department, found a different way to serve the Oak Cliff community in his retirement.

James helps with lunches for members of The Well Community every Tuesday. Each week he stands at the door and shakes hands with members who deal with severe mental illnesses. “They always light up when you say their name and smile at them. Some of them have the greatest smiles, but no one knows it because no one takes the time to acknowledge them.” Continue reading

Four Everyday Steps That Fight Anxiety

Four Everyday Steps That Fight AnxietyAccording to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anxiety disorders (which include conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and phobias) are the most common mental health problems. In addition, anxiety is a common symptom of many other mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and PTSD. Nearly everyone with a serious mental health challenge experiences anxiety to some degree. Continue reading

Discovering Courage and Compassion

Each semester, The Well Community welcomes interns from local universities to learn, hands-on, how to work with people dealing with severe mental illnesses. It is often during their time at The Well students in social work, counseling, psychology and related fields really become aware of the impact mental illness has on individuals. But even more, through their relationship with our members, interns often first confront their own preconceptions as they encounter people with great courage and compassion. Here’s how our most recent intern, Amber, described her own “awakening.” Continue reading

Relating Well Together

When Mary, a long-time member of The Well Community, passed away un-expectedly, several others from The Well took turns caring for her mother until long-term care could be arranged. Brian, the manager at Jacob’s House, takes time each day to listen compassionately as his housemates talk about the worries on their minds. Sue is always available to say a prayer when someone needs comfort.

Caring relationships are one of the least highlighted yet most important components of recovery for those dealing with severe mental illnesses. Isolation and loneliness are crushing companions when other people don’t reach out and connect. Continue reading